2002-03-24 the Holy Father referred to the Pharoah Akhnaton

March 24, 2002

At a general audience on February 6, the Holy Father referred to the Pharoah Akhnaton who lived in the fourteenth century before Christ. You can be sure that the Pope was not using that gathering of thousands of people in the Vatican to indulge a little historical obscurantism. His point was that the radical Pharoah greatly upset Egyptian civilization by believing in only one god. Akhnaton named himself for the brightest thing in the sky, the sun god, Aton.

If you are looking around for a god, the sun is as logical a choice as any. But we do not shop around for God. You might say that he shops around for us. That is why when Jesus was one earth he kept showing up at the right time in the right place, telling the people to sit down and listen. The sun, and all other things, glorious in size and appearance, are only creatures: "God made the two great lights, the greater to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.And God saw that it was good" (Gn 1: 16, 18). Psalm 18 praises God for his handiwork (v.2) and likens the divine Word to the illuminating power of the sun: "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (v.9).

The splendor of the world enlightens the intellect to put two and two together: a brilliant creation, means a more brilliant Creator. The book of Wisdom says that "from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author is seen by analogy" (Wis 13:5). After St.Paul physically and morally encountered the light of Christ on the Damascus road, he told the Romans that "ever since the creation of the world, (God's) invisible perfection can be perceived with the intellect in the works that have been made by him" (Rom 1:20).

What Pharoah Akhnaton longed for when he built a whole new city to honor the solar disc, and what the Jews were inspired to hope for as the Light of the World shining in darkness, is finally seen in Christ. Last September 11 in New York City a terrible darkness clashed with a beautifully bright day, as yet another one of those signs in history of the clash between evil and the goodness of God. All this has its ultimate resolution in the Passion of Christ beginning on Palm Sunday. While it is played out with characters representing the worst and best of the human condition, it is not just human theatrics. It is relived liturgically every year in Jerusalem and New York and wherever the Gospel is known, because it takes place every day of our lives in the drama we call life itself.

Fr. George W. Rutler

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